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Render Beasts!

Big projects require big performance.

We recently completed a 4K 360 VR 3-minute medical science animation, entirely done in Houdini and GPU rendered with Redshift. The project had an extremely aggressive deadline of just 8 weeks, start to finish, so we knew rendering everything out in time was going to be a major challenge.

projection camera test render of synapse signals

To solve this rendering bottleneck, two high performance, purpose built rendering beasts were built.

The build was not without its challenges. Packing 8 GPUs into an open, air-cooled, tight form factor frame was no easy task. Finding the right kind of PCI extension cables during a global pandemic, when Chinese manufacturing was completely shut down, made for some late nights mired in Google Translate and lost in thousands of Alibaba website tabs. 

Learned a lot about PCI lanes and memory limitations in the process, and I’ll admit there were moments that if I had hair, it would’ve been pulled right out. 

But as all things computer and CGI related go, persistence wins, and the machines got built, and eventually all the hardware and software kinks got sorted out.  The twin beasts were absolutely instrumental in getting the 3 minutes of 4K VR frames rendered out.

We made the deadline on time, client loved the work, and we stand impressed with the speed and capability of GPU rendering with Redshift, the days of long CPU render times are over.

The Redshift benchmarks are impressive. We used 1080ti cards to keep the costs down, as 2080ti cards are generally twice (or more) the price with only a nominal gain in performance. 

Both machines are coming in at 1.25 minutes for 8 GPU running Redshift 3, without any kind of overclocking. The 1080ti cards still hold their own and have certainly proven their worth.

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